A quick note that I might come back to later.
«“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”»
It’s not enough to just live by the Golden Rule (“treat others as you would yourself”). For one, some of us treat ourselves pretty badly. But also, in general, there’s a problem with “Policy X seems to me to be good for society in general (although some people will be hurt, but, hey, greatest good for greatest number), so let’s do Policy X.”
We are called to justice and mercy, and we should do justice and mercy *for no other reason than that God called us to it*. Not because it’s “fair” (do we really want to use human judgments of fairness? If someone hurts me, is it fair to hurt them back an equal amount?) or because it’s “good for society” (gassing Jews and sterilizing “mental defectives” was seen to be good for society, not so long ago).
There’s also what happens at the end of the book of Judges (ch. 21), as an example (the whole story is really the last three chapters of Judges, 19-21). The other 11 tribes of Israel decide to go to war with the tribe of Benjamin because of something bad that happened in a Benjaminite city. At the beginning of this war and as it progresses, they consult God repeatedly about what to do, but at some point they stop consulting God and just decide what to do by themselves. In other words, they leave God out of it. Here’s their solution, at the end:
«And they instructed the Benjaminites, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, and watch; when the young women of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and each of you carry off a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. Then if their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Be generous and allow us to have them; because we did not capture in battle a wife for each man. But neither did you incur guilt by giving your daughters to them.’” The Benjaminites did so; they took wives for each of them from the dancers whom they abducted. Then they went and returned to their territory, and rebuilt the towns, and lived in them. So the Israelites departed from there at that time by tribes and families, and they went out from there to their own territories.
In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.»
That last line is the very end of the book of Judges, and I see it as a bitterly sarcastic statement. This story ends with mass kidnapping and rape, sanctioned by the people who didn’t consult God about how to solve a problem, and that last line seems to carry a ton of weight.
To be fair, too much of either approach can be bad. We need both, and we need balance. (Duh, who hasn’t said that before?) But the God thing has to be present.
So go to worship, and pray. 🙂